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Jul 14, 2010 11:23 AM

Top 10 Meals on Oahu?

My husband and I just booked a week on Oahu in September - I spent a lot of time there as a kid but haven't been back in 10 years, and my husband has never been. The place we're staying, which is in Kailua, has a kitchen and a grill, so we do not plan to eat out every meal - I figure we will probably have 10-12 meals out. I've read many of the other posts on this subject and have seen KaimukiMan's amazing encyclopedic lists of all things edible on Oahu, but I was hoping you all could help me narrow it down, so here are my questions:

1. What are the 10 best meals on Oahu? Price is not a huge concern and we are expecting that one of the meals will be at Alan Wong's, but our preference is to mostly stay away from tourist spots and eat the best local food. Holes-in-the-wall are great for us! So far, I'm thinking Nico's, Little Village Noodle House, Poke Stop, and Helena's...

2. Would you recommend the Sunday brunch at Orchids at the Hale Kulani, or is it a tourist trap?

3. When I was a kid, my family's favorite restaurant was Keo's, but I don't see much mention of it here on CH. Is it still good?

4. Since we're staying on the windward side, any particular recommendations over there? It sounds like Boots & Kimo's is worth a visit?

Thanks in advance!

Nico's At Pier 38
1133 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817

Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen
119 Hekili St, Kailua, HI 96734

2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

Helena's Hawaiian Food
1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Keo's In Waikiki
2028 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

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  1. On the windward side, I really enjoy the breakfasts at Cinnamons. The Farmer's omelette is huge, and you can subsitute the regular pancakes with their awesome carrot cake pancakes for a tiny bit more $. They make an awesome hollandaise for their benedicts; I remain a traditional fan, but they have about 5 or 6 different varieties. I read in Mid-Week that they now have red velvet pancakes, but the last time I went there, several months ago, they did not yet have those.

    1. Because you will stay in Kailua, let me recommend Casablanca, 19 Hoolai, 262-8196. It is pretty inside, the food is very good and reasonably priced, and I don't remember any corkage fee for our brought bottle.

      Casablanca Restaurant
      19 Hoolai St, Kailua, HI 96734

      1. Thanks for the recs! We have made reservations at Alan Wong's and for Sunday brunch at the Hale Kulani but would still appreciate any additional guidance you Hawaii Hounds can offer (especially with regard to local favs and holes-in-the-wall)!

        Alan Wong's Restaurant
        1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

        8 Replies
        1. re: aching

          KaimukiMan, a regular poster on these boards has a pretty extensive list of local favorites. I don't know if this is his most updated version, but you can find it in the "where to eat in Oahu?" post, just a bit lower on this board. It's a great starting point for visitors looking for good eats.

          1. re: curiousgeo

            I've read KaimukiMan's list - it's amazing! - but I was hoping for suggestions to help narrow it down...

            1. re: aching

              awww.... thanks guys

              that list does have some asterisks which are or have been favorites, but here are some "gotta do's"

              rainbow drive in
              leonards malasadas
              nicos (you already mentioned)
              cocktails on the terrace at the halekulani at sunset
              either helena's or ono's for hawaiian food
              shave ice (waiola store or matsumotos-preferably both)
              shrimp truck, even if its blue water at kaiolu and kuhio

              if you get most of these no one is going to be able to accuse you of shirking your culinary duties.

              would be good if you were able to add one of the top level restaurants too..... alan wong's, roy's, mavro (meh), or maybe 3660. Town is a good add too. If you are at ala moana the pineapple room or mariposa.

              keo's is still good thai food.
              sunday bunch at orchids is great (if you can get reservations), but given the choice, i'd still choose pupu's and cocktails at sunset. ok.. do both...LOL

              you can get great chinese and other asian food in LA, so thats not a big priority for you im guessing. korean food here is not up to LA standards either.

              other than keo's what were your favorites growing up?

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Town is a great addition! I just had lunch there Friday and yesterday. Everything was so delicious simply prepared letting the food speak for itself almost everything locally sourced. They have an amazing cocktail menu as well.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Hmmm...Well, in addition to Keo's, we used to go to a chain called Kim Chee a lot and also one called Yum Yum Tree (now defunct, I think) - I loved their coconut pie. I also loved the green tea ice cream at Dave's (also now defunct?). Hale Vietnam was a family favorite, as was 3660 On The Rise. My parents would go to Alan Wong's every time we visitied, but they would always leave and my brothers at home with my grandma. =) I remember loving having lunch with my mother at the cafe at the Contemporary Museum. I also loved the mud pie at Duke's. I remember eating a LOT of Chinese food (since my family is Chinese) but I don't remember any specific restaurants. I also remember a lot of inari, spam musubi, and red bean bao, but again, I don't remember specifically where we would get those things. I have nothing but great food memories from Hawaii! However, even though my dad grew up there, he never took us to some of the classic places like Rainbow Inn, and we never had shave ice or Hawaiian food - I don't know why! So I definitely want to try those things this time.

                  Thank you all for your suggestions - if you have any more, please share!

                  3660 On the Rise
                  3660 Waialae Ave Unit Frnt, Honolulu, HI 96816

                  Kim Chee Restaurant
                  46-010 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744

                  Hale Vietnam Restaurant
                  1140 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

                  Duke's Restaurant & Barefoot Bar
                  2335 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                  1. re: aching

                    We did stop by Dave's on our way to Kailua Beach from Waikiki. Yes! It's in this wooden western looking shopping shopping center/strip mall. Bought a pint of green tea and ube...wiped it out a the beach!
                    And then we stopped by Agnes' Portugese pastries on our way back...Sorry, need to look for the photo of Dave's somewhere (I took it for evidence).

                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                    Oh, and yes - great Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai are a dime a dozen here in LA, so it's not a high priority - although if there was a really great place for one of these cuisines in Hawaii we would be happy to go...

                    1. re: aching

                      Kim Chee is someplace I used to go to a lot, but either my taste buds have become more discerning for Korean food, or the Kim Chee chain went downhill. I've been twice in the last 10 years at the insistence of some friends, and both times i thought it was pretty awful. Hale Vietnam is still there and still has really good, if somewhat americanized, food. The Dave's on Kapahulu is indeed gone, not sure about any of the other locations. And the rest of the places you mentioned are going strong.

                      Kim Chee Restaurant
                      46-010 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744

                      Hale Vietnam Restaurant
                      1140 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

            2. Just go back from Oahu, too many places to eat, had one disappointment.

              Alan Wongs: always go when we're in town, never disappointed. Took the entire family for the first time, everyone except my son enjoyed it (he's not fan of getting dressed up). Wife and brother-in-law had the 5 course tasting menu and daughter had the Kona lobster 2 ways; they raved about their dishes. Mother-in-law had the Mahi-Mahi with Stir Fried Vegetables, she usually can't finish a dinner but cleaned the plate. I had the mochi encrusted opakapaka, it was good, but next time I'd take the waiter's recommendation and order the pan steamed opakapaka. Kid's tip: son and daughter ordered fruit punch, probably expecting Fanta or Meadowgold, but Alan Wong's appears to make it from scratch (I didn't have a sip), spoiled them for life. In the past have gone to Mavro's and Roy's Hawaii Kai, both good, but we like the food better at Alan Wong's.

              Also went to Helena's, Rainbow Drive-In (out of the roast pork special, too bad), had poke from Tanioka's, ate Rainbow cake from Dee Lite (dillingham) and Dobash from Liliha bakeries, Shiro's Saimin, and Zippy's are all good local places to eat. Libby's (off Kahili St) for manapua, pork hash and half moon dim sum.

              Don't see too many recommendations outside of the city, here are some if you're in the Aiea area:
              1) Young's Kalbee: Love their meat jun and mandoos, their lunch special is huge. Off Aiea Heights and Moanalua.
              2) Ice Garden: don't think shave ice is as fine as Waiola's, but they make up for it with optional mochi balls, azuki beans, ice cream or flan/custard toppings; family always orders shave ice with mochi balls. On second level of Times supermarket center, next to McDonald's off Aiea Heights and Moanalua.
              3) Kabuki: go here to get lunch for beach. Okazuya open in the morning except Tuesdays. Usually get cone sushi, chow fun, pork adobo, nishime, gobo, etc. For beach lunch we also get a zip or surf pac from Zippy's.
              4) Spicy Ahi: In Times supermarket off Kaahumanu (?). Tried this place for first time this year, brother-in-law recommended it. Kind of expensive for local food, but good food.
              5) Kiawe Grill: off Kamehameha hwy close to Kaonohi St. Everything cooked over kiawe, small number of tables, lack of air conditioning at the time. Next time I go, I'll have to get the kalbi. Steak didn't seem to have as much of the kiawe taste.

              Wanted to try in Wahiawa, but were closed:
              1) Sunnyside: Have wanted to try this place for awhile, hole in the wall known for loco moco and their pies, just closed when we pulled up at 1pm on Sunday.
              2) Shige's: been here before and enjoyed it, local food, was also closed on Sunday.

              Had to try the eggplant fries from Poke Stop. Mentioned this to my brother-in-law and he picked up some on the way home from work. Would second what someone else has mentioned on this board, eat them right away. By the time I got to them, they were pretty soggy (but I can see the potential they have).

              The one disappointment, Town. I had eagerly anticipated eating there because of the positive reviews here. Went last Thursday (missed Manomin by a day) for lunch. Took over 2 hours and the place didn't appear to be particularly busy. The panino I had was burnt. Maybe just a bad day for them, wanted to just get out of there at the end.

              Thanks to everybody for all the tips on this board, they come in handy.

              Alan Wong's Restaurant
              1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

              Rainbow Drive-In
              3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

              Ice Gardens
              Aiea Shopping Ctr, Aiea, HI 96701

              Young's Kalbee
              99-084 Kauhale St Ste A2, Aiea, HI 96701

              2 Replies
              1. re: NoHawaiiThisYear

                Too bad for you and Town. I went again on Monday and had a wonderful lunch.

                1. re: NoHawaiiThisYear

                  my experience has been that town is on it about 95% of the time, every now and then they mess up. has happened to me twice. sad to hear you hit them on an off moment. thanks for the out of town tips, you are right they are mostly under represented.

                2. I am really familiar with Windward side restaurants.

                  Formaggio Grill is awesome!!! Our favorite restaurant on the island is definitely Formaggios in Kailua.
                  Try some of their wines (large selection)
                  And the food winners for us are:
                  Crab Fondue with Crostini
                  Lobster Bisque

                  Steak Neptune

                  We do all our special occasion dinners here and sometimes come in and just get the fondue and the soup.

                  Also, Baci Bistro in Kailua has some really good dishes. We've never been disappointed. My husband had a lamb shank one time that was amazing and I specifically remember some really good lobster ravioli I had there. I also got some veal with prosciutto that was good.

                  For less expensive food..
                  Mexico Lindo is a good place, too. We love their guacamole and also their queso for apps and for our dinners we usually go with the chimichangas. I get mine with shredded pork or beef usually and my husband gets the crab chimichanga.

                  For a cheapish dinner
                  Teddy's Bigger Burgers
                  They have the best burger I have ever tasted. I like the western one. They have good shakes and onion rings, too.

                  For breakfast, I was underwhelmed by both cinnamon's and boots and kimos. We had boots and kimos supposedly awesome macadamia nut pancakes and we were made sick by how much sugar was in them. We could only eat a few bites.

                  Baci Bistro
                  30 Aulike St, Kailua, HI 96734

                  Mexico Lindo
                  600 Kailua Rd Ste 109, Kailua, HI 96734